Comet Lovejoy glows green, sports magnificent tail on closest approach to Earth
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 4:37 PM - A magnificent wanderer is swinging past the Earth this week, on its closest approach to the planet in roughly 8,000 years, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see it for yourself.
Comet Lovejoy, formally known as C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), was discovered in mid-August, and is the fifth comet to bear the name of Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy.
Although comets are notoriously unpredictable, in that noone can truly predict exactly how bright they’ll be, what kind of tail they’ll sprout (if any), or how much of an impression they’ll make on us. C/2014 Q2 has proved to be quite spectacular, as the above tweet shows, featuring a composite image of Lovejoy and its tail, taken by Austrian astrophotographer Gerald Rhemann](http://www.astrostudio.at/2_Bright%20Comets.php?img=images/2_Bright%20Comets/267_2014Q2_28_12C.jpg).
As of today, January 6, the comet is a little over 70 million kilometres away, roughly halfway between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
[FONT=“Arial”]The position of Comet Lovejoy on January 6, 2015. Orbits & positions courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. Comet image courtesy Paul-Stewart (Astrostew](https://www.flickr.com/photos/astrostew/))[/FONT]
Over the next 36 hours or so, that’s about as close as it will get, and then it will slowly fade as it heads back out to well beyond the orbit of Pluto, not to be seen again for another 8,000 years.
If you happen to have dark skies in your area, free from large sources of light pollution, and you’re lucky enough for those skies not to be overcast over the next two nights, you can see Comet Lovejoy for yourself.
[FONT=“Arial”]Comet Lovejoy in the southeastern sky. Courtesy:**Stellarium](http://www.stellarium.org/en_CA/)[/FONT]
As shown above, find the constellation Orion](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(constellation)) - one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky - between sunset and sunrise, and then look to the west of there. It may require at least a set of binoculars to get a good view, but it will depend on the sky conditions in your area.
The Weather Network’s very own meteorologist/astrophotographer, Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn](http://www.weatherandsky.com/), has plans to observe Comet Lovejoy sometime over the next few nights, and hopefully she’ll be able to share some great images with us!